Published by Harper
Publication date: May 1, 2018
Genres: Debut, Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
Summertime is thriller time. There’s something about the pacing, when it’s done right, that matches the weather to my brain—overheated and a bit frenetic. The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy is my most recent venture into twisted turn thriller territory. Molloy doesn’t go for subtle in choosing a plot guaranteed to ratchet up the tension: an infant disappears from his mother’s home while she is out drinking at a bar for the first time since his birth. Winnie didn’t even want to go out, but the other women in her group, the May Mothers, said she absolutely must join them. Francie, Colette, and Nell are the closest thing she has to friends—especially as they had all given birth the same month (May—get it?)—so she went along. Molloy goes from the cozy sorority of women bonding over their birthing experiences and their children’s milestones to a feeding frenzy of suspicion and secrets.
The blame game in The Perfect Mother launches at warp speed. First it is Alma, the middle-aged, reliable babysitter; then Winnie, because how dare she leave her newborn for any reason AND she’s a single mother. At the same time, Molloy gives Francie, Colette, and Nell not only lots of secrets, but personality types—cool and collected, resourceful and cheerful, frazzled and hyper—that are straight out of central casting. As in, I’m sure this book will be optioned for a limited series by the time this review posts. Every one of them starts disintegrating after baby Midas’s disappearance. If that’s not enough, there is also a first-person narrator who is more than a little off and drops a lot of hints that make it seem she is involved with the kidnapping. But who is she?
A couple of weeks ago I discussed another summer thriller, The Favorite Sister, and how much I loved how it took crazy to a whole new level. The Perfect Mother does the same thing on the crazy scale, the difference being that in Sister the women are unapologetically, albeit secretly, flawed. That I like and appreciate. People who lie and cheat…OK. But it feels as if Molloy goes too far in using the tremendous strain of being a new mother to create a group of women who seem to be borderline unhinged. Or is she trying to prove how, even in the throes of dementia-inducing sleep deprivation, these mothers are all heroes? Molloy doesn’t make it clear enough so I ended up feeling mildly insulted for the women in The Perfect Mother. If you can read things purely for enjoyment without thinking about them too much then you’ll enjoy this twist-y thriller.